Over the past several weeks we’ve been looking at some of the common objections that people raise when it comes to the God and Christianity. And we’re looking at these objections for a couple of reason.
First, I want you to know the answer to these objections for yourself. You shouldn’t have to feel that your faith is threatened every time someone raises an objection. Instead, you should know that there are good and reasonable answers.
Second, I want you to be prepared to respond to your friends and family who raise these kinds of objections. Our theme verses for this series tells us…
1 Peter 3:15-16 (NLT)
If someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way.
And so I want you to be ready to respond in a gentle and respectful way.
Today, we’re going to look at one of the most basic objections of all. “How do I know that God exists?” I mean, there are a lot of people who would tell you that God does not exist. That He’s just a made-up fairy-tale and that there’s no reason to believe that God really does exist.
But is that true? Well, first of all, it's not really up to us to prove the existence of God. Since most people in the world today and throughout history do believe and have believed in a god, it’s technically up to the atheist to prove otherwise. They’re the ones who are proposing something that’s not accepted by the majority of people. So the burden of proof is really on them.
However... we’ll try to answer the question anyway. How do we know there is a God? To answer that, I'm going to lay out for you six different arguments that point toward the existence of God. Do they prove the existence of God? Well, no, because really there are very few thing you can actually prove if anything. But what I think these arguments can do is show that the existence of God is more likely, more probably, and more plausible than His non-existence.
There are probably a couple dozen valid arguments that you might be able to use to show the existence of God. We’re just going to look at six and we’re going to take two weeks to do it. Three this week and three next week.
Now, I'll warn you in advance, I'm going to make you work this morning. The first few in particular—the ones we’re looking at today—will make you think. They’re going to deal with some science and some rules of logic, and you’re really going to have to pay attention and engage your mind to keep up. These are the kinds of arguments that are used in professional debates between theists and atheists... people who believe in the existence of a God and those who don't.
Plus, only one of these six arguments--one that we won't get to until next week--specifically points to the Christian God. We're dealing primarily with the question, "Does God exist?" Not with the question, "Which God exists?" That's a question for another day.
Neither will we be getting into the Creation/Big Bang/Evolution debate this morning. We'll talk about that another time, but the arguments we're looking at this morning are not dependent on you holding to a literal view of Genesis 1-3. In fact, I'll show you as we go through these how the Big Bang Theory and the theory of evolution actually supports belief in the existence of God.
Along the way, I will be showing you some verses from the Bible. These verses will be useful for us here in this setting. We've already talked about the validity of the Bible and why it's reliable and important for us today. And as Christians, we recognize the Bible to be a revelation of God to humanity. We view it as Scripture.
But if you are discussing the existence of God with someone who doubts His existence, you already know that they don't take the Bible seriously. They are not going to accept something just because the Bible says so, and so it probably wouldn't be useful for you to use these verses to try to prove God's existence. Okay?
So let's get to the first argument. Each of these arguments has a name given to it by philosophers and Christian apologists, so I'm including that name in your notes in brackets. Plus, realize that this is just an overview of these arguments. We don't have time to explore each one fully. So I've included a list of Christian apologists and philosophers at the end of your notes, and if you want to explore these things further then you can find books or online articles written by them, subscribe to their podcasts, or watch some of their debates online.
1. The Explanation of Existence. (The Argument from Contingency)
Something that is contingent is something that doesn't have to exist but does anyway. Such as people, planets, tables, chairs, stars, and so on.
Did I have to exist? I'd like to think so, but the honest answer is, "no." I am a contingent being. That means it would have been possible for me to never exist. My existence was contingent on my mother and father. If my parents never met, or if they never had kids, or if they made other choices for when to have kids, or if they themselves never existed... then I wouldn't be here today.
Is it possible for this piano to have never existed? Sure it is. If Yamaha chose to focus exclusively on motorcycles and never got into making instruments, this piano would have never existed. It's possible that it never would have existed.
In fact, everything that exists in this physical universe exists for a reason.
I lived in South Dakota for a couple years. And while I was there, I went out driving one day and I came across this incredible thing. Let me show you a picture...
[PowerPoint - Mount Rushmore]
Isn't it amazing that these images just appeared in the rock? It just kind of happened. Okay, not really. Actually, back in 1924, a man named Gutzon Borglum was hired to carve out those faces. And between 1927 and 1941, the work went on.
So it’s really an amazing sight to see. And after seeing it, I continued traveling around to the other side. And this is what I saw…
[PowerPoint - "backside" of Mount Rushmore]
Okay, that part’s not true. What is true is that the carvings were meant to depict the presidents down to their waists, but construction stopped when the money ran out. Here's a model of what it was meant to look like.
[PowerPoint - proposed model of Mount Rushmore]
But you understand that Mount Rushmore didn't just happen. There's an explanation for its existence.
If you were walking in the forest and came across a copy of Herman Melville's Moby Dick lying on the ground, what would you think? Would you think it just popped into existence, or would you assume that somebody left it there? It would be pretty obvious, wouldn't it, that somebody was responsible for that book being there. Somebody wrote that book, somebody printed that book, somebody left that book behind. It didn't just suddenly appear.
On the other hand, something that is non-contingent would be a reality independent of other factors, and whose existence is necessary. It would be impossible for it not to exist. Are there things that are not contingent? Well, maybe. But they would be very few.
Like numbers. Would the number seven exist even if there was nothing to count and no one to do the counting? Believe it or not, that's actually debated. But many would say numbers are an example of something (though not actually a "thing") that is non-continent.
Colours could be another example. Would blue be a real colour even if there was nothing that was blue? Would magenta be a real colour even if I never had to buy ink or toner?
How about the universe itself? Is it possible that the universe could have never existed? And the answer is... yes. Even modern science agrees that the universe came into existence. That means there was a point when the universe did not exist. So the universe does not exist out of necessity. Granted, we need the universe to exist. But the universe itself does not need to exist.
So this is how this argument is formulated... (I'm going to give you the premisses for the arguments today, though you might not express them the same way in casual conversation. Then again, you might.)
A. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence--either due to necessity or due to a cause.
B. The universe does not exist out of necessity.
C. The universe exists due to a cause.
D. If the universe has a cause, that cause is God.
E. God exists.
Why does it have to be God? Because whatever caused the universe has to be an eternal, transcendent, non-corporeal, all-powerful, sentient entity.
• It has to be eternal because it must not be contingent itself.
• It has to be transcendent--which means it exists above or beyond the universe--because it has to be something or someone not part of the universe. It has to be transcendent... from outside. Which makes perfect sense... if something caused the universe to exist, that something could not be part of the universe. Otherwise, it couldn't have existed before the universe and therefore could not have been the cause.
• It has to be non-corporeal or spiritual because everything physical is part of the universe.
• It has to be powerful because... well, we're talking about causing the universe to come into existence.
• It has to be sentient because non-contingent entities that are not sentient, such as numbers or colours, don't cause anything. They describe, but they don't cause or create.
And what do we call an eternal, transcendent, non-corporeal, all-powerful, sentient entity? We call it (or we call Him) "God."
Now, it's interesting, because what atheists will tend to do with this argument is decide that the universe actually did just pop into being. Even though everything else that exists has an explanation for its existence, they will decide that the universe itself is the one exception. But really, that's just grasping at straws because they don't like the conclusion. There's no real reason for them to take that position.
How does this fit with what the Bible says?
Colossians 1:15-17 (NLT)
Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth.He made the things we can see and the things we can't see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him.
He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.
Acts 17:28 (NLT)
For in him we live and move and exist.
So that's the first argument. The explanation for our existence and the existence of the universe is God. The second argument we're looking at this morning overlaps the first one a bit... [Technically, the Argument from Contingency is a sub-argument or a variation of this next one.]
2. The Beginning of the Universe (The Cosmological Argument)
The first argument dealt with the existence of the universe. This argument focuses on the beginning of the universe. This is how it goes...
A. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
B. The universe began to exist.
C. Therefore the universe has a cause.
Notice how the first premise is worded: not "whatever exists," but "whatever begins to exist..." Otherwise you're stuck with the question, "so what caused God." The answer is that God does not need a cause because God did not begin to exist.
And understand... this is completely compatible with contemporary astrophysics and with the Big Bang theory (not the TV show but the actual theory). There was a time when Christians claimed that God created the universe... that at some point, God started everything... while scientists and skeptics maintained that the universe was timeless. They used to claim that it never didn't exist, that it's always been, and therefore there was no beginning.
But during the past century, science has discovered that the universe really did have a beginning. There was a point that it didn't exist. And since it began to exist, something must have caused it. There must have been some kind of a trigger. So scientist have worked on a variety of theories to explain how the universe came into existence.
The Big Bang Theory is the one that has gained widespread acceptance. Now, you might understand the Big Bang to mean that there was this super-dense pellet that always existed and that at some point that pellet exploded and our universe came into being. But that's not really what the Big Bang Theory says. The Big Bang Theory is that there was a point when there was nothing... not even a pellet.
It's like a cone. The farther back in time you go, the more space and time contract until you get to a point where they didn't even exist. You can't even say there was a time it didn't exist, because there was no time. There was nothing. So there was a point when space and time came into existence, with all the matter and energy in the universe. That's what the Big Bang Theory postulates, but what it fails to do is describe how this happened and why space and time and matter and energy began to exist in the first place.
The universe didn't cause itself to exist, because out of nothing nothing comes. So we reach the same conclusion as we did with the first argument. If the universe began to exist, it must have been caused by an eternal, transcendent, non-corporeal, all-powerful, sentient entity that we've identified as God. In addition to that, God is timeless because He exists outside of time. Time is part of the universe. It’s part of our existence, not His.
As for the Bible, it tells us in the very first verse...
Genesis 1:1 (NLT)
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Psalm 33:6 (NLT)
The Lord merely spoke, and the heavens were created. He breathed the word, and all the stars were born.
2 Timothy 1:9 (NLT)
For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.
Interesting how Paul's words nearly 2000 years ago are so consistent with modern science's belief that time itself had a beginning.
3. The Design and Fine-tuning of the Universe (The Teleological Argument)
This is a powerful argument for the existence of God even among astrophysicists and cosmologists. It looks at the incredible fine-tuning of the universe to support intelligent life on this planet. There are so many variables in constants and quantities that if even one if them were off by a fraction of a percentage it would make life impossible.
• The gravitational constant.
• The amount of usable energy in the universe.
• The rate of expansion of the universe.
• The mass of the neutrino.
People debate about exactly how many of these constants or quantities exist, whether there are just a handful or a couple dozen or more. But it really doesn't matter, because each of these need to be exquisitely fine-tuned itself as well as finely balanced with each other that even just a few of them would make the conditions happening by chance so infinitesimal that it would be considered to be statistically impossible.
Even tiny variations in these kinds of things would not just make our kind of life impossible; it would make any kind of life impossible. It's not just that some other kind of life would have evolved; it's that no life would have evolved.
"The scientific community has been stunned by its discovery of how complex and sensitive a nexus of conditions must be given in order for the universe to permit the origin and evolution of intelligent life on Earth."
~ William Lane Craig
A. The fine-tuning of the initial conditions of the universe is due to law, chance, or design.
B. It is not due to necessity or chance.
C. Therefore, it is due to design.
Why can't it be due to necessity? Because there's no requirement that the universe expand fast enough to avoid collapse but not so fast it flies apart. Even the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, perhaps the most prominent atheist in the world, attests that there is no necessity that these constants and quantities be so fine-tuned.
So why not chance? Because as we've already discussed, the probability of all this fine-tuning to have just happened is so remote that it's impossible. Roger Penrose--another atheist--is a world renown mathematical physicist who has been linked to people like Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein. And even he does not believe that the universe came into existence by chance.
Again, this argument for the existence of God works even within a belief in the Big Bang or in Darwinian evolution. The fine-tuning had to be in place even before the Big Bang or evolution could take place. The set of initial conditions within the Big Bang theory have to be elaborate and balanced exactly in order to even permit Darwinian evolution to take place. So this isn't arguing against evolution; it's saying that even for evolution to take place somebody had to set the table. Whether you accept evolution or not is a non-issue.
In other words, the Big Bang was not chaotic. It was highly ordered and precise. The Big Bang actually supports the idea that there was a Designer... that there was an intelligence behind it. And the more science progresses, the more that's true.
Psalm 19:1-4 (NLT)
The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known.
They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard.
Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world.
Psalm 139:14 (NLT)
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
Romans 1:20 (NLT)
For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
Okay, those are the first three arguments. Hopefully you can see from these how it’s not illogical or unreasonable to believe in God. There are good reasons to believe in Him… reasons that are even compatible with modern science. In fact, they’re even supported by modern science.
And those were the heavy-lifting arguments. Next week, we're going to move out of the realm of cosmology and astrophysics. Like me, some of you may really enjoy thinking along these lines and you probably got some great things out of this morning. Others of you, maybe all you got was a headache. Well, next week we’re going to move on to some arguments you might relate to a bit more.
For further study check out the writings, podcasts, and debates of…
William Lane Craig
Copyright © 2011 Greg Hanson